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14 favourite free internet tools

Downloads to help you with your life online

We've put together the best 14 software downloads. We've got a universal messenger, a way to troubleshoot email problems, and programs to keep yourself safe. These are the software tools that come to the rescue. And best of all, most of them are free.

Foxit Reader

What's the most annoying internet-related application of all time? For many people, that question has a simple answer: Adobe Reader. Countless documents online are in the Acrobat format, so there's no way around it: you need Adobe Reader. But it's bloated and prone to crashes, nobody's idea of a good time.

Foxit Reader is a far better solution. It's small, still free and loads faster, so it doesn't take up much memory when you use it. It also doesn't seem to suffer from the same instability issues as does Adobe Reader. The program has some nice extras as well, such as the ability to embed comments. (However, when you embed comments, the page you mark up will show that you're using an evaluation version of the software. You can pay for the Pro pack to get rid of those marks, and get some other extras as well.)

Note that when I installed the program, it integrated directly into Internet Explorer as the default PDF reader, but it didn't similarly integrate into Firefox.

To make it the default in Firefox, you'll have to select Tools, Options, and then click the Manage button in the File Types area. Double-click each of the files that Adobe Reader opens, and tell Firefox to use Foxit Reader instead.

Advanced LAN Scanner

If you're a techie and have more than one PC at work or home on a network sharing a single internet connection, you'll welcome this freebie, which offers surprisingly powerful scanning capabilities. Use it for everything from troubleshooting internet connections, to network configuration, to making sure your PCs are as safe as possible when they're on the internet.

When you first run Advanced LAN scanner, you may encounter an error message, saying that a default configuration is being used. You can safely ignore that message. Simply click the scan button, and it goes to work. It looks across your network, finds all PCs on it, and then gives you quite a bit of detail about each.

Besides the local IP address of each PC, you'll also find which ports on each PC are open. Armed with that information, you can use a firewall to close them down.

In addition to open and closed ports, you'll see lots more information, such as what services are running on each PC, the NetBIOS names (if any) associated with each, and even a list of users and groups on each system. If any machines have shared folders, you'll see those as well. All this data is immensely useful to those who want to keep their PCs secure, or need to troubleshoot networks or internet connections. Making the software all the more remarkable is that it's free.

NEXT PAGE: FlashGet and FileZilla

  1. Downloads to help you with your online life
  2. Foxit Reader and Advanced LAN Scanner
  3. More downloads to help you solve problems online
  4. Downloads to make email and IM easier
  5. Digsby and SMTP diagnostics
  6. Free security downloads


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